Dubai: A new Cabinet resolution on infectious and communicable diseases suggests a major shift in the renewal of residence visas of those found having old tuberculosis (TB) scars or drug-resistant TB.

While the law is unchanged for those seeking new residence visas — applications of those testing positive for HIV, Hepatitis A, B and C or TB are immediately rejected — the new resolution seeks to provide screening and mandatory vaccinations for Hepatitis B and C to a large pool of workers in special categories. 

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued the Cabinet resolution No 5 of 2016 amending several provisions on the medical examination system for arrivals to the UAE for work or residence, Arabic newspaper Al Bayan reported on Thursday.

The resolution states that all residents will have to undergo TB screening while renewing their residence visas. 

Those found with scars or active TB or found having drug-resistant TB will be issued with a conditional fitness certificate where they will get one year visa. 

They will then have to undergo treatment within the UAE that will include follow ups at preventive health centres. Residents failing to comply with the treatment protocol for TB will be considered unfit.

Experts welcome move
Welcoming the new resolution, the health care fraternity yesterday said the decision not only gives old TB patients a chance to renew their visa subject to certain conditions, but also assures a better outcome in the management of Hepatitis B and C by aiming to vaccinate special categories of workers who are most susceptible to contracting this disease.

Health experts in Dubai said this law comes as a great relief to expatriates. “This is a tremendous positive and humanitarian step taken by the government. Prior to this if an individual was found even with a fibrosis in the lung which was unrelated to tuberculosis, had no chance of having his or her visa renewed and had to leave the country. The wise leadership of this country has shown great compassion and generosity and has given residents a chance to stay on and be treated completely within the UAE. It is shows forward and positive thinking,” a private sector health specialist told Gulf News.

Hepatitis vaccination

The viral hepatitis vaccination for Hepatitis B and C has been already implemented for hospital staff, food handlers and  sanitation workers. 

The health community is happy that a larger group of people in special categories such as domestic labourers and nannies have been included. 

“By insisting on vaccinating even those who test negative for Hepatitis B and C the prevalence of these infections will fall drastically and this will work wonders for collective community and public health. 

“There are many regions in the world where Hepatitis B and C are rampant and people coming from these regions with exposure to the virus will be get stronger immunity as they are likely to go on domestic visits,” said another private doctor on condition of anonymity.

Cost of treatment

However, it is not clear who will cover the cost of treatment for TB, which is quite prohibitive. One-year uninterrupted treatment amounts to Dh48,000 annually, a doctor said. 

“Insurance companies do not cover minor infectious diseases such as chicken pox, so there is no question they will cover treatment of tuberculosis. 

“Any one from the Indian sub-continent testing positive for TB can expect a far more reasonable treatment back home. However, with the law stipulating three visits to preventive health centres and registering for treatment here will mean the individual will have to shell out at least Dh4000 per month for treatment which is going to be very prohibitive for most,” a doctor said.

The new resolution amends cabinet resolution No 7 of 2008.
  1. HIV/Aids: Residence visa will not be granted or renewed in case the result is positive.
  2. Viral hepatitis: Tests restricted to those coming to work in the UAE for the first time. Nannies, housekeepers, domestic workers and supervisors at nurseries and kindergartens will be tested for Hepatitis B during visa renewal too. 
  3. Those working in salons, beauty centres, health clubs and sanitation workers will be subjected to tests for viral Hepatitis B and C. 
  4. Visas will not be granted or renewed for positive cases unless they change the purpose of request for residence visa. 
  5. All negative cases of new visa applicants from the categories above will be vaccinated for the disease in three doses and given a certificate to prove they have received the vaccine. 
  6. Negative cases need to produce certificate of vaccination when renewing their residence visa.
  7. Tuberculosis: Examination is limited to lung tuberculosis. 
  8. New applicants with old pulmonary or active TB are deemed unfit and not granted residence visa. 
  9. Residents renewing their residence visa found having old or active pulmonary TB will be deemed medically fit, but will be subjected to a follow-up by the department of preventive medicine or equivalent government health bodies. In such cases, a health fitness certificate stating ‘Subject to treatment’  will be issued. This will give a one-year residence visa to the applicant for the purpose of treatment. In the event of non-compliance, or if the person misses three consecutive visits, he will be considered unfit
  10. In cases of TB with treatment-resistant bacteria, the infected person will be subjected to treatment inside the country to be cured and then, if deemed fit, will have residency renewed.
Source: Al Bayan